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REVIEW: DIY2 by Chris VenHaus Cat5 Speaker Cable Cable

My Vandersteen 2CE Signatures arrived a bit earlier than I expected last week. I didn't have any speaker cables on hand, so I picked up a roll of the *Stereophile Recommended* Radio Shack 18ga solid-core copper hookup wire (woohoo!) and enjoyed my new speakers with 6 feet of the stuff biwired.

In the meantime I was working on 150 feet of Belden 1585a CAT5 cable--pulling out the twisted pairs (4 per cable) and then braiding, braiding, and braiding... and braiding... (By the way, did I mention that I had to BRAID a lot of twisted pairs? Yes, BRAID!)

So yesterday I finally finished BRAIDING all 600 feet of twisted pairs into a 6 foot biwire set as per Chris' recipe (27 pairs for the lows and 9 pairs for the highs). One would think that I was done at this point. Well, one would be WRONG! I had to untwist all the solids from the stripes and strip and terminate the damn things--which I finished today. Finally. (I used Radio Shack spade connectors that Jon Risch claims to sound pretty good; interestingly enough they seem to be sourced from Monster Cable's manufacturer as they have the Monster Cable logo on the plastic covers).

Now the million dollar (okay, maybe $500) question is, how do they sound? Are they worth the ~10 hours of monotony, the chafed and cramped fingers, the $80 worth of materials? Does Chris Venhaus have to worry about my undying curses for a fruitless endeavor?

Well, they certainly are worth it (and Chris can sleep easy tonight)!

Admittedly, my only basis of comparison in my system is to the biwire 18ga RS hookup wire--Stereophile Recommended, of course. Nevertheless, there is no question that Chris Venhaus' CAT5 recipe blows it away. Bass is much tighter, harmonics are infinitely richer, and highs are way smoother. I can turn up the volume to satisfying levels without a sense of fatigue as I was previously experiencing. I could invoke the cliché's of removing veils and "whiteness", holographic imaging, palpability, yada yada yada, but you get the idea. It's quite a noticeable difference.

My somewhat modest system: Toshiba 2109 DVD transport, MSB Link DAC, Radio Shack 10kOhm pots for volume control, Musical Fidelity X10-d tube buffer stage [I'm not convinced that it does anything], Belles 150a power amp sounds much better than the dealer's system I was listening to: Linn Genki or Wadonka, Adcom GFP-750 preamp, Bryston 3Bst, Transparent Cables. My system has superior soundstaging, imaging; maybe less bass, but overall superior sound, and for quite a bit less money. The CAT5 speaker cables are a significant factor in the price differential.

I'm rather curious about how much better the cable would sound if I had invested in Kimber Postmaster spades or WBT spades, but considering their prices ($20 for a pair of Kimber Postmasters and I think even more for WBT) versus $5 for 8 Radio Shack (Monster Cable?) spades, the fact that I needed a biwire set (12 or 16 spades) for my Vandersteens, and that I had only spent $60 for all of my CAT5 cable, I'm not sure if it would be worth it.

As a relatively young audiophile (20 years) I'm happy not only to have saved some money but that I have indeed heard an audible difference between cables. There is sufficient value in my cable that I do not regret having invested so much time and energy; indeed I am very satisfied with my work. It's better than pride of ownership--it's pride of creation! But at the same time one should consider that I'm a college student on summer vacation, so my labor comes somewhat cheap (currently about $16/hr).

Finally, I have some parting advice for anyone bored/crazy/economical enough to want to make Chris Venhaus' CAT5 recipe. When braiding the twisted pairs it's much more important to be CONSISTENT than to make them tight. I made one or two extremely (I want to use the a-word but I won't) tight braids but realized I was killing myself for no good reason. It's much easier to braid the twisted pairs somewhat loosely, but CONSISTENTLY, and then pull the braid straight (and thin) after you're done with the length. The gaps should narrow down to under 1/16th of an inch as Chris specifies, as long as your braid is consistent.

Enjoy the music!

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Topic - REVIEW: DIY2 by Chris VenHaus Cat5 Speaker Cable Cable Review by Andrew at Audio Asylum - Andrew 19:11:43 06/21/00 (3)

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